The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, November 09, 2003

Gray Lady's Tonkin Gulf Blues

The analogy that dare not speak its name is now finding its voice: the V-word has gone legit, Iraq-wise.

The New York Times has a Week in Review piece today, by one Craig R Whitney, evidently designed to see just what parts of US experience in the Vietnam War work as analogy, and what parts don't.

Whitney evidently thinks he has a winner here:
There are lessons from Vietnam worth remembering in Iraq, and one is to be clear about the reasons for going to war. Opponents of both wars have argued that the United States used false pretexts to attack both North Vietnam and Iraq. In Vietnam, it was the Tonkin Gulf resolution in 1964, after a North Vietnamese attack on an American destroyer that may or may not have actually endangered the ship. In Iraq the joint Congressional resolution in October 2002 authorized military action on the grounds that Mr. Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks that may or may not have existed.

Oh dear. I suspect Jayson Blair could have done better with his famous armchair research.

There were, of course, two Tonkin Gulf Incidents [1]: on August 2 1964, there was definitely an attack (no may about it!) on the USS Maddox, resulting in trifling damage to the vessel; on August 4, those on board the Maddox (and the Turner Joy which had been sent to join her) thought they were being attacked, but almost certainly weren't.

Does Whitney think there was only one incident? Or is he in fact referring only to the August 4 incident? Either way, he's wrong.

  1. The briefest of summaries from the Duke of Tonkin Gulf, Edwin Moise; I mentioned on October 7 a 1999 thesis on the subject, which is worth having.

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